Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Simply Music - A Crew Review

I had a great childhood, but I do regret not having learned to play an instrument. As an adult college student, I did take a basic music class where our final exam included playing a short piece on a recorder, but that was pretty much the beginning and ending of my music career. My husband on the other hand, comes from a musically rich background. In fact, as a child and young adult, he traveled around the United States and occasionally abroad with his family, who played as a family band. It was and is important to both of us that our daughters have the benefit of music in their life. Our girls both play multiple instruments, including the flute, oboe, bassoon, clarinet, piccolo, and a bit of percussion. What was missing was the piano, and my 15 year old has mentioned a few times that she would like to learn to play that too. Fortunately, we became acquainted with Simply Music and have had the chance to review their Music & Creativity - Foundation Course .

The particular course that we reviewed is free, which is a huge priority for the founder, Neil Moore. He has a heart for sharing music with world, and desires that money should never be a reason not to learn. He has spent 25 years creating his unique learning method. His style is now being taught in 12 other countries, and is the leader in playing based education. What sets this program apart from traditional ones is that as I mentioned, it is playing based, versus reading based. Typically, students are taught to first read music before getting on the piano. Moore believes that for many potential students, this may cause them to lose heart if they cannot grasp the concepts. He believes that everyone is innately musical, and that by immersing ourselves in playing, it will come about naturally.

Getting started is a simple process. All that is required for this particular course is to register an account, and get started. You or your student will be playing from the first lesson. There is a getting started video to watch and get an overview. There are 19 lessons in all, with each comprising of 3 to 5 components. They are taught via video, with durations of anywhere from 5 to 19 minutes. Along with the videos, there is a printable keyboard that will come in handy for practicing finger placement in between lessons. There are also pdf's of a reference book, soundtracks for accompaniment, as well as Neil Moore's book, Music and the Art of Long Term Relationships. That's a pretty sweet deal for the cost of...nothing! 

My teen worked through the lessons at a typical pace of 3 days per week. Fortunately for us, my husband likes to play with the keyboard, so we have one handy. We set it up at our dining room table, which doubles as our school work space. As I mentioned, my daughters are musicians, so they do read music, and are familiar with the traditional reading approach, drills, etc.. She would usually work through several parts of the lesson on each learning day. The first thing that my daughter liked about Neil Moore is well, his accent, lol. Seriously though, she appreciated the relatively short length of the videos, bite sized as they are. She did say that she would like it if there was more presented  about the keys, notes, and hand placement. She also felt that scales and drills are still important, even with this method, and that it would be beneficial for new students to have exposure to that information. Since she has that knowledge, she had an easier time with all of those aspects, but she still felt that she was needing more instruction. Now, for those who have an ear for music, and enjoy experimenting at their own pace, this will be right up their alley. When you consider that this is available for free, this is definitely a program worth trying out and sharing with friends and family.

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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Summer Sunday

Another Sunday. It's been a pleasantly busy weekend. This week finds us volunteering for Vacation Bible School, and we've been putting together crafts, snacks, and activities. We also spent time this afternoon decorating the church. I almost forgot the pleasure I have in creating children's projects. We enjoyed a great grilled dinner, and watched some tv as an early evening thunderstorm blustered through. Now, I'm getting sleepy, so I'm off to get a little rest before our busy week commences. Have a great evening!

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Heart Changer, by Jarm Del Boccio, Author - A Crew Review

As I sat down to write this review, I was thinking how ironic it was that although we homeschool, and are therefore surrounded by books, I seem to rarely have the opportunity to actually sit down and read something myself, for pleasure anyway. I suppose it's simply a busy season, but whatever the case, I was happy to find a comfy spot on the couch and enjoy this debut from teacher, Jarm Del Boccio, Author , called The Heart Changer .
This historical fiction book is based on the passage from 2 Kings 5. Scripture tells us in the first part of that chapter that Naaman was the commander of the army of the king of Syria. During a raid, his (Naaman's) soldiers had carried off a little girl from Israel, who came to work for Naaman's wife. Naaman had leprosy, and when the young girl heard of this, she told her mistress about the prophet Elisha's ability to heal. Author Del Boccio takes this chapter and creates a story surrounding the details and events of the story.

The back cover offers a teaser, as well as some info about the author.

The book is softcover, with 116 pages divided into 25 chapters, an epilogue, and note from the author. It was written for the middle school audience, but anyone beyond that age would find this an enjoyable read. This fictional account focuses on the young girl turned slave. Miriam (not her real name), is a 12 year old girl who, as we read the first lines in the book, is being urgently ordered by her mother to run and hide, as their town is raided. Unfortunately, Miriam is abducted by a soldier, and carried off. Her fear turns to sadness, which turns to bitterness as she feels abandoned by Jehovah. As it happens, she is specifically chosen to be the personal assistant to the army commander's wife, named Adara. 

I love getting a chance to read for fun!

Miriam discovers that her new mistress is kind, and slowly, she becomes acquainted with her new life. It is a difficult transition of course, and Miriam struggles with anger, confusion, and the fear of what has become of her family. In her worst moments, she remembers her mother's example, as well as her words to never repay evil for evil. She commits herself to trust and follow Jehovah. One day, Naaman is found to have leprosy, and after nothing works to cure it, he tells Adara that there is one more thing to attempt to appeal to their gods. I'll leave you hanging on this one, so as not to spoil that part, but suffice it to say, Miriam is appalled at the idea and tells her mistress of the prophet Elisha, who can heal the afflicted. They decide to find the prophet, and if you are familiar with the account, you know that Naaman is not only physically healed, but he finds life and salvation in the One True God of Israel. 

2 Kings 5

This really was a delightful read. Del Boccio creates a great picture of what could have been the situation for this girl, while staying true to the Biblical account. It is a fantastic option for not only middle schoolers, but teens and adults as well. I read it in its entirety in about an hour and a half. I look forward to future titles from this author. My daughters, ages 13 and 15 years, are now taking their turns reading the book. I knew that my 13 year old would enjoy it, but my 15 year old can be picky. After reading for myself though, I know that there is a great blend of action, suspense, sprinkled with a solid dose of uplifting encouragement. She's going to love it.
As a bonus, when you visit The Heart Changer , if you scroll down, you'll find a white square that says The Heart Changer Teacher Guide. This is a pdf that you can use with students and includes discussion questions, a chat with Jarm Del Boccio, and even a few Syrian recipes. It's a great way to enhance the reading experience. Happy reading!

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Zoo

Do you have a summer bucket list? We have an unofficial, unwritten collection of activities that we would like to do before the next school year begins. Today we enjoyed a perfectly lovely warm, sunny day, and decided that it would be the perfect time to check off one of those items. Our city has a small zoo, and so we headed over to enjoy God's beautiful creation. Here are a few photos.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Happy Independence Day!

This week, we will celebrate the 4th of July. We’ll be busy with various activities, so I’m posting my holiday greetings now. It looks like it will be a hot week for us, but since we’ve had such a lousy winter and spring, I suppose I can’t complain. I hope you all have a great week, and enjoy the freedom we are blessed to have in these United States of America!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

So you had a bad...week?

Have you ever heard that old pop song that has the line, "So you had a bad day..."? Well, for me, it's been a pretty lousy week. Feeling poorly, long commutes, tight deadlines, and teenage drama. I thought that today, this evening more specifically, would be the time when I could finally relax. Nope. Another unexpected frustration. I'm tired. It's hard being a mom. Oh well. Tomorrow is another day, the start of  a new week. I'm praying it's a much better one. Have a good evening everyone.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Writing with Sharon Watson - Jump In 2nd Edition ~ A Crew Review

I'm sitting here at my dining room table, laptop open, writing a review. I am writing, and I love it. That probably doesn't sound funny to you, but it sure makes me chuckle. As a student in middle school, and then high school, I hated, no, detested writing. An assignment that included any amount of writing longer than a paragraph or two was enough to cause me great anxiety. I couldn't tell you why I felt that way. I was a good student. I didn't have any specific moment of a teacher or adult belittling my writing abilities. I simply felt, well, dumb when it came to the task. It wasn't until sometime in my college years, after composing many papers, that I discovered that not only could I write, but I actually enjoyed the process. I'm a homeschooling mom now, and one of the goals that I have for my daughters, is to teach them how to communicate well through their written work. We've used curriculum from various companies, but I tell you in all honesty, that my favorite source is Writing with Sharon Watson . We've been reviewing the Jump In, 2nd Edition composition course for middle schoolers, and I'm thrilled to introduce it to you.

We received the Student workbook and the Teacher's Guide. Jump In is suitable for grades 5th-8th. The material works for schedules that use one, two, and even three year plans, depending on the writing abilities of your students. There are 98 daily lessons, which are called "skills". The lessons are clear and concise, and as a person who prefers to get to the point, I appreciate that. The length of each skill can take as short as 5 minutes to complete, or up to half an hour. Students will learn all of the fundamentals, including:

-Everything involved in writing paragraphs
-Thesis statements
-Research report with citation sources
-Plenty of humor!

These are the assignments that will be covered:

-Opinions essay
-Persuasive essay
-Cause and effect persuasive essay
-Newspaper article
-How-to essay
-Research report
-Compare and contrast paragraph
-Book report
-Book response

What's in the workbook?

What you'll find inside.

Examples of what a book responses.

Grading grids.

The Teacher's Guide is incredibly helpful. Sure, it has the answers to the daily lessons, but there are also plenty of extras. A section called The Teacher's Backpack offer tips in proofreading, the steps in writing, possible reasons that students hate to right, and how to turn those attitudes around, as well as how to structure a paragraph. Teachers, do you struggle in deciding what letter grade to assign a paper? No problem, because there are sample papers that describe compositions that earned an A, B, C, and F, respectively. Students will find themselves actually enjoying the process of writing through the use of Writing Plunges, which are prompts to get their creative juices flowing. These are short assignments, meant for about a 10 minute time period, 4 days per week. There are prompts for every month, and opportunities to share them with fellow students.

Too many writing and composition courses are dry, causing students to lose interest quickly. My 13 year old daughter, who has been working through this course, had barely started the first exercise, when she declared how fun the subject matter was. Instead of the "Do I have to do this todaaaayyyy?' attitude that I have encountered occasionally in the past, she chattered excitedly about creating an opinion piece on the delights of mint chocolate chip ice cream. After reading more of the assignment, and working through the steps to create an opinion essay, she decided that ice cream didn't have the content she needed to create the paper she needed, and so she changed the topic to homeschooling. We are now in 19 lessons or so, and my teen's enthusiasm remains high. It's a kick for me to watch her writing bloom.

My daughter's opinion on homeschooling.

A self evaluation for writing.

Favorites and least favorites.

The benefits of mint chocolate chip ice cream, lol.

What do we think? Well, I said it in the first paragraph, and I'll say it here in the last. Sharon Watson Writing is our favorite. Half of the battle is often finding curriculum that students find appealing. Here it is! My daughter agrees that this curriculum makes the task of composition painless, and even gasp, fun! I don't know how Sharon Watson does it, but she presents the material in a perfect tone to engage students. Her writing is conversational, and interesting. The instructions are simple, yet thorough. I am confident that any student who works through Jump In, including my daughter, will finish with a solid grasp of the basic writing concepts. As you prepare your curriculum list for the upcoming school year, this is a must have. Visit the website, and check out a free sample chapter. 

Why yes, I will pick this up for my high schoolers!

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